Interview with Dr. Jen Barna

Dr. Jen Barna has created a place where frustrated and burned-out physicians can learn to survive and thrive.

Dr. Barna earned her medical degree and completed her Diagnostic Radiology residency at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine. She also holds a master’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Washington University in St. Louis. She is a board-certified practicing radiologist and founder and CEO of DocWorking.

DocWorking is a company that helps physicians maximize meaning and purpose in life, in and out of work. It does so by providing expert coaching, a peer support community, courses, and other resources through its subscription called DocWorking THRIVE. It definitely helps physicians survive and thrive.

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We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country. It has over 700 graduates. And, the program only takes one year to complete. 

By joining the UT Physician Executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to find a career that you love. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office at (865) 974-6526 or go to

Helping Physicians Survive and Thrive

DocWorking also assists organizations to support their physicians, advanced practitioners, and healthcare teams via DocWorking Solutions. This program improves engagement and satisfaction, which improves recruitment and retention, and patient care.

Finally, Dr. Barna is also the co-host of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, now ranked on multiple lists as a top physician podcast.

DocWorking Podcast

Jen has already posted over 130 episodes of the podcast. The episodes are engaging and educational. And the topics resonate with most clinicians.

It can be found by searching on any podcast app for DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.


You can learn more about Dr. Barna and DocWorking at

If you want to go directly to look over the DocWorking Thrive Program, just go there and click on the Thrive Physician Coaching Program tab at the top of the website. You’ll also find a link to the DocWorking Thrive Program for healthcare organizations.

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Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 233

How to Survive and Thrive on the High-Pressure Healthcare Battlefield

John: I'm really pleased to present today's guest. She's a radiologist, a podcaster, and a business owner, but her business is devoted to helping physicians find and express meaning and purpose in their lives. It's basically really sophisticated coaching services the way I look at it. Hello, Dr. Jen Barna.

Dr. Jen Barna: Thank you, John. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here with you on this podcast, which is one of my favorite podcasts. I love the concept of nonclinical career options, and I'm very excited to speak with you today.

John: Very good. Well, I'm glad to have you here because we're going to pick your brain and try and learn everything we can from you in the next 25 minutes or so. This is going to be fun. We always start out by giving you a chance to give us the short version of what you do, your education, your training, and maybe exactly how you're balancing whatever you're doing today.

Dr. Jen Barna: Okay. Well, I am a board-certified practicing radiologist. I practice part-time while I run DocWorking, which is my business. That is a business that's based on helping physicians to maximize their potential by identifying what matters to each individual person and managing time and stress, and basically keeping your eye on the prize, for what is most meaningful to you as an individual. I'm a mom, I'm a wife and all of the things that we do outside of medicine. And I'm really interested in physicians finding a way to integrate their work lives and maximize potential there while also living the best life they can outside of work.

John: Okay. Now, what I'm getting through what you just said you're doing is there's an obvious reason for it. I want to ask you a little question here, put you on the spot. What were you observing that prompted you to feel like, "Well, this is something we need?"

Dr. Jen Barna: Well, that is a great question. And for me personally, it really comes down to experiencing some burnout that in retrospect started even in medical school for me. I had both of my kids as a medical student, which was almost unheard of at the time. I've been practicing for a while now since I graduated from medical school in 2001.

When I began that journey, ultimately, I felt this constant pull between work and wanting to spend more time with my family. That was the struggle for me going through at the beginning of my career. And then as I went through my career, I think some of that actually held on, even though I began to figure out how to balance it all over time.

What I noticed is that in dealing with all of that, I felt very, very isolated, really. I didn't want to ever admit that I had any issues while I was at work. And of course, when you're at work, you're working, you don't have time to talk about it. We don't talk about it as physicians. And so, initially, I thought the best way out for me was going to be to leave medicine. And that's really how I got interested in nonclinical careers and why I find what you're doing so interesting. I became interested in business and side gigs and what other things people can do, not just as physicians, but just in general as business people. And I thought that was going to be the path I would go down. And as I began to learn over time about coaching, I began to find some really phenomenal coaches. They were able to help me to really focus on what mattered to me. And I experienced a mind shift really.

It's an ongoing process. It's not something that is just like a quick fix, but it made me realize that I didn't actually want to leave medicine. And that there's a lot of in-between. It's not just black and white. I was able to find a way to stay in the career that I love with a group that I've been with for 11 years or so, and also find a way to prioritize what mattered to me outside of work. I wanted to bring that to other physicians, and bring the value that coaching can add to our lives as physicians in a way that also helps physicians to save time. There are many coaches out there. I wanted to find the best coaches, bring them to one platform. And then when you go to you know you don't have to spend your time sorting through thousands of people. You can go there and know that that's where you can find the best resources.

John: Very good, very good. I could tell that you went through a similar thing that I've gone through and many of my listeners have gone through and many physicians have gone through. And it's particularly difficult I think, as a woman with children in residency or medical school, that'd be just... I can't even imagine that. Closest I came was getting married while I was in med school and that was a nightmare. I find that very interesting and yes, I've talked to coaches before, but I think you've designed something that's very unique that we're going to get into, even in more detail in a minute.

But I don't think we've mentioned, except maybe briefly in the intro is that you're a podcaster. You have a podcast. I want to get that out of the way, so to speak. I don't really want to get it out of the way, but I want to talk about that for just a couple of minutes before we get into really the big topic. Did this come from the very beginning of starting your business? Why did you start the podcast and how would you describe the podcast in terms of who you interview or who you talk to and just kind of lay it all out for us?

Dr. Jen Barna: Thank you for asking about that. Our podcast is DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, and it's on all of the podcasting platforms. And what we did is when I started DocWorking, I brought two phenomenal lead coaches on, Dr. Gabriella Dennery and master certified coach Jill Farmer who's nationally known as a coach and has been coaching physicians for over a decade.

I brought them together and the three of us decided to start the podcast last February because we really wanted to create content that would give physicians something that they could listen to and walk away from and put into action immediately. We do a combination of coaching topics, which relate to leadership and confidence and visioning and time management, stress management, communication. All these different topics are really helpful and you can take something away immediately.

And I also wanted to hear about the lives of other physicians, because since we don't have time to really delve into that and get to know each other often at work, I think we do as medical students and often as residents. But then when we get into private practice or into a career, you think that you're as busy as you're going to be when you're a resident or fellow. And it turns out that you are busier when you finish, which was a bit of a shock to me.

I wanted to bring physicians on and hear about their lives. It's a combination of physicians who are just at the top of their game and often have gotten there with the help of coaches. And these physicians often are using coaches in an ongoing way and hear about how they did that, and how they're doing everything they're doing, but also balancing their lives outside of their career. And then also hearing from people who are out there in the trenches, dealing with real-life in rural settings or settings all different types of ways we can practice medicine non-clinical and clinical, and even medical students, residents, all the way up to retired physicians. We really are enjoying just exploring the voices of medicine and combination.

John: Excellent. Here are my comments on that too. Of course, we're all listening to podcasts, we love podcasts and that's why we have a podcast. And I appreciate the listeners that are listening right now. I've had several guests over the last few years and many of them are podcasters, but we can all get in our little bubble. It's the bubble around John Jurika and who he knows. When I was looking and listening to some of your episodes, number one, it's just a fresh perspective. I wasn't even aware of what you were doing until just recently. And I was going through all the guests you had and 99% of those guests, I've never talked to personally.

For those listening who have heard all of my guests in the past, some of whom have been repeat visitors, there's a whole world that Jen Barna has created, and a whole new podcast with a lot of new perspectives. I think there are a lot of obviously common threads, but I would recommend people just check out the podcast just to get a whole new perspective from your whole corner of just career transition and just thriving in the general universe. That's my recommendation.

Dr. Jen Barna: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

John: If you want to learn more, just listen to that podcast. Now, we're going to talk more about this very interesting, and I think somewhat unique approach to coaching, coaching service, and support service for physicians that come through DocWorking THRIVE. It's the main brand. Tell us again, why did you decide to do it the way you're doing it? How is it different from, let's say, other coaching programs? I know you touched on earlier, but let's get into that in a lot more detail.

Dr. Jen Barna: Thank you. Yeah. I think the main emphasis that we have in our program that makes us unique is that first of all, the coaches that we have are experienced, they already know how to get results. They have been doing this for years. They know how to work with physicians. They know the unique problems that we face. As physicians, they understand that. They understand our limitations with time.

Everything we've designed in THRIVE is created to accommodate a busy physician's schedule so that you can pick up value in very short increments based on small group coaching, and also peer support. Because again, as physicians, we often don't have that interaction at work with other physicians in a way that allows us to be vulnerable and allows us to share our struggles. From speaking with physicians across the country, I've found that people often have a sense of isolation and by being in an environment where there is peer support in an ongoing way that is facilitated by coaches, that is very valuable to the physicians who are in our group.

And additionally, we do the small group coaching that comes with an ongoing subscription. And there are several courses that are virtual courses that you can also tap into at your own whim and do however much time you have, a few minutes in this course, or that course, STAT: Quick Wins to Get Your Life Back, which was designed by master certified coach Jill Farmer and Dr. Gabriella Dennery. And then there are leadership communication and resilience courses that are built into the program.

All of these facets allow you to come in as a physician. And perhaps right now you're needing some help dealing with feelings of burnout, or maybe what you're doing is you're wanting to get that next promotion, and you want to focus your energy on that. All of the things that happen in life, maybe you're just saying like, "I don't really remember why I'm doing this in the first place. What was my purpose in this? Can I find that again?"

Whatever it is at any given time, there are always new things to focus on to really maximize your potential and figure out what matters most to you that may change over time as well. So, what matters to you now and what we can help you to achieve may change over time. That's why I wanted to create a program that's ongoing. It isn't just a course that ends. And then you get what you get out of it. We wanted to provide support in an ongoing subscription type of format.

The other concept that's different about what we're doing is it's preventive. Rather than wait until you get to a point where you're at the end of your rope, and you're having to leave medicine altogether. Although of course, everyone has their own choice. And if that's what's best for you, then absolutely, we support whatever the individual wants to accomplish. But rather than feeling like you're at the end of your rope, and you have to make decisions because you're too burnt out, we are trying to help people prevent that from ever happening. It also helps healthcare institutions and healthcare organizations, because by supporting their physicians in this way, the physicians can really thrive, which ultimately benefits the organization, and of course, benefits patients.

John: Okay. That is one of the things I noticed. I had a chance to look through some of the courses and the videos that are in there and read more about it inside. And I also noticed that somehow, you're making this available to organizations to help them with, let's say, their medical staff or their physicians are working at their clinic. How does that work? If an organization wants to implement something like this, do they just register a bunch of their physicians or how do they integrate that into what they want to do and what THRIVE does?

Dr. Jen Barna: Yes. It's very customizable in terms of how different organizations want to implement it. In an ideal world, they would put all of their physicians in it and provide this support to them, which ultimately, would benefit the organization. Some organizations are wanting to put their wellness council in so that they have the support of coaching as a backup as they are providing coaching within the organization. It's a fantastic opportunity for them.

And it's also helpful to have it as a backup for even an institution that has a strong wellness program in it, because as you know and I think all of us know, and certainly from talking with physicians, I universally hear people say, "I don't want to go for coaching inside of my own institution. I really would prefer to go outside."

It's valuable to have coaching available at an institution. But even what the wellness council coaches are telling me is that often by the time someone comes to them they are having some problems that are more serious. And again, what we're trying to do is help people never have to get to that point. We're really about helping you maximize your potential with coaching. And that can have to do with making the best of your life. You don't have to be in a difficult position trying to work out of it, although we can help with that as well.

John: Okay. Yeah. That's an awesome point. And one thing I wanted to come back to is that there are a lot of physicians that actually resist the idea of coaching. I didn't resist it in the past. I just didn't know anything about it. When I was a CMO over the hospital, of course, like many hospitals C-suite teams, we all had coaching as part of just working there. The CEO started first, he had a coach for like a year or so. And then he said, "Wait a second. I should bring this in for my team." And so, we had a coach who was coaching the team as a team and was doing individual sessions. So many businesses incorporate just constant coaching from day one so that their leaders can really move forward a little easier, a little more quickly, coaching just helps them focus and figure out what's important, what's not important, that kind of thing. I did notice that in what I was looking at on THRIVE. Do you want to comment on that?

Dr. Jen Barna: Yeah. I love that you brought that up because I am an example of a person who thought they didn't need coaching. It took me years of thinking I had figured it out and I was figuring it out and I was fine and I didn't need any outside help. And once I had some coaching and I realized what a huge mind shift it was for me, I realized, "Wow, I could have accomplished what took me 10 years to accomplish, I could have accomplished it in such a shorter amount of time if I had done this early on."

It is true that culturally within medicine, I don't think we've recognized yet as physicians, the value of coaching. And I think that there's huge potential for physicians, especially because we are lifelong learners and we have a tendency to be very high achieving individuals. And I think for people who are like that, coaching can especially provide a huge benefit. And like you say, it's well recognized in business, in acting, in sports that ongoing coaching is hugely valuable. So, it's a little bit late. We're a little bit late to the game as physicians.

John: One of my colleagues who is a physician leader, was a CMO and he's done other things. And one of the things that he does when looking for a new job is that having a coach would be a condition of his employment. That would be part of his contract. "I'm going to get regular coaching, business coaching." And I thought that was smart. Why didn't I think of that? Just build that into your employment, if you can.

Okay. Let's see. There were other questions I think I had about the program. It's kind of multimedia in a way, you've got the videos. There are certain things in coaching that come up over and over and over again. So, it makes sense to sort of put that into a video, like, okay, you're all going to have to think about this, or at least most of you, here they are. If you've already got this mastered, then just skip that lesson. Then you have group sessions, pretty much monthly. Is that how that works?

Dr. Jen Barna: Yes. With the videos, what we really are thinking, and first of all, we're in process of adding a new course, which will be available that gives CME credit that's in the portal as well. And that course is about resiliency. We, as physicians, are already resilient. It's not about needing to be more resilient.

John: I know, some people, oh boy, they get their hair off on the back of their neck when they say, we need to be more resilient. Like we are the most resilient people on the planet. But go ahead.

Dr. Jen Barna: I hear you. I feel that, yes, I totally agree with that. But this is a phenomenal course and it does help. All of our courses really are designed to give you the basic concepts of some time management skills that you can put into use right away. And all of the things we've already talked about, but also mindfulness and visioning and some tips on resilience, but also some vocabulary to use with your team, as a physician leader around resilience. And it's a bit higher level. It's not to say that you're not already resilient because clearly, we are all resilient and we are still standing here because we are. I think we're in the living proof phase of that, for sure. Now more than ever.

John: Well, let me jump in. Maybe if you even get the skills to negotiate with your employer or your coworkers in terms of like, okay, we want to promote this resilience, but resilience may need something like rest or not doing things in a dysfunctional way, fixing a process rather than just toughen it out, tough right through it.

Dr. Jen Barna: That is a huge part of our culture that I'm really interested in shifting because culturally we created it ourselves, I suppose, over hundreds of years. But what we have as a culture of self-neglect, just put everything out there on the line and don't acknowledge what you need to take care of yourself, we are seeing right now that that is not going to be sustainable. With 60% of physicians now reporting symptoms of burnout, 25% to 40%, depending on where you look, are reporting considering leaving the profession altogether.

Obviously, we need to make some changes. And what we're trying to do with THRIVE is to help people to have a fresh perspective on leadership with a concept of a new era of leadership, how we as leaders, all physicians are leaders, as we're leading teams we can help to facilitate a culture that is healthier for all of us, including our ourselves and our teams.

The idea is to empower physicians so that instead of having that sense of overwhelm, we can realize where we can make changes in our own lives. What can we change? What can we not change? And focus on what we can change. And then there's a financial part of it as well in terms of getting into a stable position financially so that you're coming from a point of power and confidence to be able to come back to the table and help change the culture of medicine in a positive way for everyone.

John: All right. I have a couple more questions, but I want to stop just for a second and say that we can find this at Correct? That's your website?

Dr. Jen Barna: Yes, And there's a button there on the homepage for THRIVE, where you can click and see more specifically about what we offer. You did ask me about the coaching and I apologize I didn't answer your question about the small group coaching, which is once a month currently. Although, the way we do it is as the group grows, we are adding more small group coaching sessions. And so, if you're in the group and you want to come to more than one session a month, you're welcome to come to any and all sessions. It's not limited to once a month.

And we are finding that some people really find value in coming to the small group coaching sessions. Some people are finding value in the courses. Some people are finding value in the Facebook group where the coaches are interacting and you can submit questions anonymously if you choose to. We have a lot of people who describe themselves as being introverted, so they don't want to come out and ask the question directly. They prefer to ask anonymously and the coaches will answer it in an anonymous way. It helps everybody.

John: Well, as far as the group coaching goes too, for those listeners who maybe have never done any kind of like a mastermind group or group coaching or anything like that, or support group, I don't want to call it that because this is not therapy. But the thing is you just attend, you don't even have to open your mouth because you just learn from the other questions that people are asking or the challenges they have, because most challenges are not really new challenges.

That's one of the reasons I like mastermind groups, although, in a mastermind group, everybody has to participate. I kind of like the situation sometimes where you have the option of participating, at least in the way I do my mastermind group. But anyway, that's awesome. You are kind of using all different techniques.

Dr. Jen Barna: We do give the option.

John: Yes. And they go to more in a month if they're happy to be more so that's cool. The other thing I want to suggest again to my listeners is I focus on nonclinical careers, of course, that's just so I can niche down and focus on one thing. But the reality is, I've talked to many coaches who, whether intentional or not, a huge percentage of the clients that are physicians end up going back to clinical medicine. Because they didn't know they could do something different clinically than what they're doing now. It sounds like you've definitely hit that group as well.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yeah. I love the concept of not having to just have one or the other. There's so much in between. And what's all of those options that are in between, that's a different choice for different people. But we as physicians have a lot of options, and from what I've seen of the people who are in THRIVE currently, I've witnessed people say at the beginning, "I feel like I need to leave medicine. I don't know what else to do." And then I've seen them over a relatively short amount of time say, "You know what? I'm rethinking that because this is part of who I am. And I don't really think I want to leave." There are ways to have it, as we say, have your cake, ice it and eat it too.

John: Nice. You kind of read my mind in answering a question I was going to pose about what have you learned from what's been going on and the people that have been through it. So, you just mentioned that one. Anything else you've learned or "aha" moments? I know just doing the podcast for me, I have all kinds of "aha" moments I didn't know that talking to different people. Either in the podcast or through THRIVE, anything else you've observed that you were surprised by?

Dr. Jen Barna: Well, if you listen to the podcast, you'll probably pick up on the fact that I'm learning literally as we are recording the podcast. First of all, I learned from the coaches, we record conversations and I'm sure you can hear that I'm just learning as we're talking because I have picked up much information. My kids are young adults and I talk with them about these concepts all the time. They're really universal concepts and I've had a lot of people reach out and say, "I'm not a doctor, but I love the concepts that you guys talk about."

So yes, I would say, I've picked up some really useful tips about ways to think about time and ways to manage time and how to focus and prioritize and understand that we only have a certain amount of time. To overbook yourself in a way that is not realistic is, ultimately, not helpful and puts you in a position of not being able to achieve what you think you should. But by the same token, you can achieve anything you put your mind to, but you really have to focus on that and prioritize it.

And the other thing I've really moved into the forefront of my mind that I've learned from the coaches is you have to prioritize your own wellness. And that's not something that I've ever been good at doing. That has been a mind shift for me as well.

John: Nice. Yeah. Those are good bits of advice from what you observed. It's true for everybody. If you don't put it on your calendar, it's probably not going to happen. I do emails every day. It's kind of stupid and crazy. But one of them I did recently was like, okay, if you want to start a habit to be healthier, here's what you have to do. Number one put it on your calendar. It's not going to happen unless you do that.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yes, I read your emails.

John: Yeah. I want to know before we go because we're going to have to end soon here. Any last bits of advice for my listeners, you kind of have a sense of the audience and a lot of them, they may be burned out, they may be just frustrated or just not happy with what they're doing. So, what would you like to tell them before we go?

Dr. Jen Barna: I would say, number one, you're not alone. You may feel isolated, but you are not alone. The struggles that you are going through are personal and I'm sure they do differ from individual to individual, but probably you may be surprised at how many of us are going through similar struggles.

And secondly, I would suggest and challenge people to be part of the change in our medical culture by getting themselves in the driver's seat of their own life. And I say that coming from a place where I've felt very overwhelmed before, and I'm very familiar with that sense of overwhelm that makes you feel like you have to make decisions based on that. You can get to a place that you don't have when you start to sort out what you can control and what's outside of your control. And it's not all black and white, there's a lot in between.

John: That is good advice and good comments. The thing about doing it for yourself is you then become a model for other people. That in itself can change the culture. And getting back to what you were talking about earlier about being leaders in doing this, well, it starts by modeling it.

I remember way back when I was still in med school, I saw an OB-GYN who worked part-time, he was happy. He loved his patience. He was never overworked, and he was like the perfect role model, but I never did follow up on how he did that. But when you see something like that, it really sticks, and maybe you can come back to that and this is something that can help. Oh, we forgot to mention too, that Jen has given us a little boost here, a little opportunity to try THRIVE at a little reduced rate, which is nice. I think you said that if they go in there, they like what they see, they decide they're going to sign up, and they can use a coupon code TWENTYOFF.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yes. And it's spelled out T-W-E-N-T-Y O-F-F.

John: Okay. I'll put a reminder in the show notes too, but if you're in there and you say this really looks for me and oh, I can get twenty off, then I'm going to use a coupon code TWENTYOFF. That's fantastic. I appreciate that.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yes. And I appreciate you being in the group. The current cohort of THRIVE members is just full of really phenomenal people. And having that support from other physicians to find out "What did you do? How are you doing that?" is really valuable in and of itself.

John: I've done some of the courses. I've got to sign up for one of those monthly group meetings.

Dr. Jen Barna: There's one next week.

John: I'll look for that. Awesome.

Dr. Jen Barna: Yeah. I hope to see you there.

John: All right, Jen. Thank you very much for being here today. I've really enjoyed it. I think the listeners have learned a lot. We will have to catch up again sometime down the road.

Dr. Jen Barna: Definitely, John. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you. I love your podcast. I recommend it on my podcast, which is DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. And listening in the near future you will hear Dr. John Jurica as a guest on DocWorking.

John: Yes, that was fun too. All right. Thank you, Jen. Take care and bye-bye.

Dr. Jen Barna: Thank you.


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